One of the greatest accomplishments in all of human history occurred through Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem in 52 days.
Nehemiah was a slave, in bondage in a foreign land. But he was connected through prayer to the God who made and controls the universe.
All that occurred could not have been dreamed, but it happened because Nehemiah was a man to whom prayer was a first response, not a last resort. Notice the consistency of his prayer.
1. He prayed when he was burdened
When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven (Nehemiah 1:4 NASB).
2. He prayed when the sins of the people were overwhelming.
“We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell’” (1:7-9).
3. He prayed when he had an overwhelming task to do.
“O Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man.” Now I was the cupbearer to the king (1:11).
4. He prayed right in the middle of hard conversations.
Then the king said to me, “What would you request?” So I prayed to the God of heaven (2:4).
5. He prayed when he had a physical, financial need that was impossible.
So I prayed to the God of heaven. … And the king granted them to me because the good hand of my God was on me (2:4, 8).
6. He prayed when he had opposition to the work from visible enemies.
Hear, O our God, how we are despised! Return their reproach on their own heads and give them up for plunder in a land of captivity. Do not forgive their iniquity and let not their sin be blotted out before You, for they have demoralized the builders. So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work … All of them conspired together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause a disturbance in it. But we prayed to our God, and because of them we set up a guard against them day and night (4:4-6, 8-9).
7. He prayed when he was in the midst of a personally overwhelming task.
Remember me, O my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people (5:19).
8. He prayed when he was being falsely accused by his enemies and was weak and discouraged.
For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, “They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands (6:9).
9. He prayed when he was frightened by his enemies.
Remember, O my God, Tobiah and Sanballat according to these works of theirs, and also Noadiah the prophetess and the rest of the prophets who were trying to frighten me (6:14).
10. He prayed with others when God had accomplished the work and given victory and they came to consecrate themselves and make a fresh covenant with God.
Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the sons of Israel assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dirt upon them. The descendants of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. While they stood in their place, they read from the book of the law of the LORD their God for a fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the LORD their God (9:1-3).
11. He prayed when he found the people slipping back into sin.
Remember me for this, O my God, and do not blot out my loyal deeds which I have performed for the house of my God and its services (13:14).
12. He prayed when he had to confront his people for their backsliding.
Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood and the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites (13:29).
You may not think that such fervent prayer is important. Then again, you also may not be the one who was used to bring about one of the greatest nationwide revivals in human history.
But, you can be.
Apparently, Nehemiah believed prayer—not position—was the key to change a nation, and it became his natural response in every circumstance. Through prayer, this humble slave brought God into the equation of his nation’s horrible condition.
And so must we.